A recent visit to North Korea by Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, revealed the limits of private diplomacy, but also some of the benefits. When Schmidt returned from North Korea earlier this month, he argued that Internet freedom was the only means to increase the poor country’s productivity. That recommendation seemed the height of tech-centric naivete; giving citizens the power to communicate with one another and the outside world is contrary to Pyongyang’s entire way of thinking.
Still, Schmidt should be given credit for trying to initiate a new conversation with a regime that has been largely impervious to diplomacy. There’s always the remote possibility that third-party delegations, like that led by Schmidt, can reframe a diplomatic discussion where governments have failed.